Iconic Event Crowns Champions On The American Side of Split Tournament
The 60th edition of the Silver Sticks tournament took on a new look this season. Due to challenges regarding international travel and commuting across the U.S.-Canada border, the 2021-22 tournament was split into two events, with one crowning a Canadian champion and the other anointing an American champion.
While Canadian victors were determined in the fall, the American half of the tournament took place in Port Huron, Mich., over this past weekend. Teams from across the country showed up on a mission to leave the Great Lakes State with a shiny silver stick and banner.
The 2007 and 2009 birth-years in the United States had a big weekend, as teams converged in metro Detroit to battle for one of the coolest trophies in youth hockey.
For the 12U team that captured the title, the drive home’s pretty short. The 14U team had a bit more of a commute, but still manageable.
Little Caesars won the 2009 birth year division, while Chicago Mission won the 2007 division. They both did so in convincing fashion amongst intimidating fields of competition.
Mission, specifically, had to navigate a field with three other teams ranked in the top 10 of the country. They ran into two of those during their trip to the top, but Mission — ranked No. 2 in the country — made sure to live up to their billing.
The Chicago contingent put the 16-team field on notice when they posted a 7-1 win over the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers on Jan. 6 to open the tournament in impressive fashion.
The following day, they scored 11 goals in two games, while only allowing two. Mission started with a 6-2 win over the No. 8 Northeast Wisconsin Jr. Gamblers before shutting out the Colorado Thunderbirds 5-0 in their nightcap.
To wrap up the preliminary round on Jan. 8, Mission muscled through to a 3-1 win over Victory Honda, securing top billing in the elimination rounds. In the quarters later that night, they posted a 4-1 win over Cleveland Barons Elite.
On Championship Sunday, Mission started things off with a 3-1 win over No. 6 Pittsburgh Penguins Elite, which locked them in for a date with the Long Island Gulls in the final. The Gulls had eliminated No. 10 Compuware in the semifinals, but their luck ran out against Mission, as the black and neon green-clad squad skated away with the Silver Stick in a 5-2 championship matchup.
With the victory, the Mission ‘07s gave their parent club a Silver Stick winning streak, after they had also captured the Bantam AAA championship the last time the tournament was played in 2020.
At the 12U level, the ‘hometown’ Little Caesars bunch emerged victorious from a 12-team collection in Port Huron.
It was a familiar collection of Michigan and Illinois teams, as five of the eight Michigan AAA programs — Little Caesars, Compuware, HoneyBaked, Belle Tire and the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies — competed with Chicago Mission, Windy City Storm and Chicago Fury. The three outliers were the Northeast Wisconsin Jr. Gamblers, Arizona Jr. Sun Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins Elite.
Caesars started things off with a 5-2 win over the Gamblers in their Thursday night opener. On Friday, they woke up bright and early to beat Mission 4-1 in an 8 a.m. contest before wrapping up the day in the afternoon with a 2-1 win over the Sun Devils.
A 6-3 win over rival Compuware gave Caesars a spot in the semifinals, where they dominated the Windy City Storm 6-0.
In the championship contest, they ignored the Penguins’ No. 10 U.S. ranking and beat them handedly, capturing the Silver Stick hardware with a 4-1 win.
It wasn’t the usual size and scale, but it was great to see that the U.S. Silver Stick Finals were able to take place this past weekend. Over the following weekends, the tournament will crown champions at the 10U A, 10U AA, 12U A, 12U AA, 14U A, 14U AA, 16U A and 16U AA levels.
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